Friday, March 8, 2013

Movie review: Ordinary man has no use for extraordinary fame


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Starring: Kad Merad, C?cile De France, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Alberto Sorbelli, Pierre Diot, Garba Tounkara

Directed by: Xavier Giannoli

Running time: 112 minutes

Parental guidance: partial nudity, language.

Opens Friday, March 8 in French at: Excentris cinema.

MONTREAL - If you saw Woody Allen?s episodic To Rome with Love, you?ll recall an amusing storyline featuring Roberto Benigni as a regular guy who wakes up one morning to discover he?s famous. With Italy?s comic genius leading the charge, the segment offers some of the hit-and-miss film?s more entertaining moments.

French director Xavier Giannoli (Quand j??tais chanteur) takes that idea and runs with it in Superstar, an inspired satire on our media-saturated culture, where reality shows and Internet hype turn average people into household names overnight.

But rather than bank on a wild-man cut-up like Benigni, Giannoli takes the premise one step farther, making his protagonist the most unremarkable guy imaginable. Martin Kazinski (played with a perplexed mix of resignation and resistance by Kad Merad) is balding, in his 40s, with a job at a factory that recycles computer parts.

One day, on the subway ride to work, he notices a pretty young woman smiling at him ? which is strange enough. Then people begin to stare and take his picture. Soon they are calling out his name ? ?Martin, over here!? ? and asking for autographs.

He begins to run, seeking to escape the growing mob. By the time he reaches the factory, news of his subway ride has gone viral, with photos and video of the entire affair all over the web.

He is invited onto a Tout le monde en parle-style talk show to comment on his sudden fame. But Martin doesn?t have much to say. In fact, he only has one question: ?Pourquoi?? Why me, he wonders. He wants none of it.

An outspoken rapper (Garba Tounkara) sees him as an Everyman, the voice of the people. The show?s attractive producer, Fleur (C?cile De France), is sympathetic to his plight. Maybe he is a messenger, she opines, with a valuable lesson for our society.

Everyone has an opinion about who he is, why he has become famous and what he should do about it ? everyone except Martin, who would like nothing more than to return to his unremarkable, anonymous life.

Giannoli brings drama and deadpan humour to the proceedings, treating improbable events with the utmost seriousness. Ominous strings fill the soundtrack; Christophe Beaucarne?s evocative cinematography is filled with dark corners, giving the film a noir feel; and Merad plays his part to perfection, appearing spooked and increasingly desperate as he tries to hide from a world that wants to rob him of his privacy.

Giannoli comes up with various twists to keep us intrigued. And if ? like his subject?s fame ? his story runs out of steam in the final lap, the first half offers enough intrigue to carry us through to the closing credits.

Twitter: @tchadunlevy


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